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Fix Yuh Face

“Wanti wanti, cyaan get ee and getti getti nuh wanti (Those that want it can’t get it and those that get it, don’t want it).”

“Fix Yuh Face. Smile! How the judges gon score unno wid unno face looking like that (Fix your face and smile. How will the judges score you with your faces looking like that)?”

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For the millionth time, the cassette player stopped and we had to move back to our starting positions.

Sean and I were front and center as we practiced our group number for the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (J.C.D.C.) festival competition. Normally, we had an all girls dance team, but competition in our division had been getting tougher each year, so we were experimenting with some new additions. For this routine, we had a few boys who’d be our surprise guests halfway through our dance number.

“Come on you gotta wheel and dally, come on yuh gotta wheel and dally in the dance like a ballerina (Come on you have to dance with skill, come on you have to dance with skill in the dance like a ballerina).”

“Is wha kinda fenky, fenky arms dem dere and unno hear mi seh muss fix unno face (Where is the precision in your arm movements and don't let me ask you again to fix your face)?”

Sigh. We had almost made it to the end this time. We were all dripping sweat after rehearsing so many times. I’d personally lost count, but Ms. Portious wouldn’t end practice until we were perfect or as close to it as she could get us, since our competition was tomorrow. Mercifully, on the next take everybody smiled and kept their moves precise.

None of us questioned Ms. Portious’ methods though. Each year, we came away with several trophies and heavy praise from the judges at the festival, especially about our energy and facial expression.

“Tell yuh parents di bus leave tomorrow at 9 a.m (Tell your parents that the bus leaves tomorrow at 9 a.m.).”

Leaving the dance room, we rushed into the sweltering heat. It didn’t matter if it was hot, we were free, until tomorrow’s performance anyway. Most of us in our dance troupe had older siblings who had to wait for us to get through practice before walking us home and they had all migrated to the football field to occupy themselves, while they waited.

“Mek wi race guh di bathroom dem fi change (Let’s race to the bathrooms to change our clothes),” someone yelled out.

The bathrooms, where we could change from our leotards and tights, were on the other side of our school, next to where our older siblings were playing.

“Alrite. Ready, set, go!”

Off we went. Down the first block of classrooms. I was out in the lead as we approached the first corner to take us to the older kids’ classroom. It felt like someone was right on my heels, so I turned around to check right as I made it to the corner.

Buff (Crash)!

All the air rushed out of my chest as I hit something and then started falling to the hard, concrete slab. Dazed, I realized that I had crashed into the metal pipe at the corner of the building that carried the water away from the roof when it was raining.

I immediately felt my mouth begin to pool with blood after a loud popping sound when my jaw connected to the concrete slab. Through my excruciating pain, I heard people crying and screaming.

“Ms. Portious!”

In no time, my dance teacher was kneeling beside me asking if I was okay. A stinging pain in my nostrils brought me to a moment of clarity and a world of pain. Eww, smelling salt, but it did the trick. I was back awake and feeling dazed.

I turned my head to try to spit out all the blood that now settled in my mouth, but realized I couldn’t really get my jaw to cooperate, so I just tried to loosen my lips and let it drain out.

“Nobody, doan move har. Guh fi har bredda dem and tell the office to call her parents( No one move her. Go and get her brothers and tell the office to call her parents).”

I must have lost consciousness again because when I came to, it was to the loud wailing of a siren. As my eyes started to shut again, I happily thought, Daddy.

I could tell I was being lifted, put on a stretcher and quickly moved.

“Trouble, trouble. You cyan hear mi? (Trouble-my nickname- can you hear me)?”